THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS

The Jewish Need for God's Righteousness
Part One

(Rom. 2:1-16)
The Jewish Need for God's Righteousness (Part One)

Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs Godís Righteous Activity (1:18a)
    The Gentile Need for Godís Righteous Activity (1:18-32)
    The Jewish Need for Godís Righteous Activity (2:1-3:20)
II. Godís Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39)
    The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself (3:21-31)
    Abraham: OT Proof that God Makes Us Right With Him By Faith (4:1-25)
    Results of Being Made Right with God (5:1-6:23)
        (1) A Proper Relationship of Peace with God (5:1-2)
        (2) A Proper Understanding of Suffering (5:3-5)
        (3) Assurance in Judgment (5:6-11)
        (4) A New Race of Mankind (5:12-21)
        A Rejection of Lawlessness (6:1-23)
    Experiencing Godís Righteousness Daily (7:1-8:39)
        (1) The Way Not to Experience Godís Righteousness (7:1-25)
        (2) The Way to Experience Godís Righteousness (8:1-39)


(1) Therefore, you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment; for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things yourself. (2) And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. (3) And do you suppose this, oh man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself that you will escape the judgment of God? (4) Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (5) But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (6) who will render to each man according to his deeds: (7) to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; (8) but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (9) There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, (10) but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (11) For there is no partiality with God.


Whereas Rom. 1:18-32 zeroed in on the Gentile need for righteousness as seen in the depraved lifestyle they engaged in, Rom. 2:1-3:32 focuses on the Jews and their need for God's righteous activity. This section is important because the Jew is the most religious person the world has ever produced. When you read Rom. 1:18-32, you see how corrupt the religion of the pagan world was--the worship of idols, of creatures, etc. The Jew, on the other hand, had the Law, the Temple services, etc. If the Jew who was so righteous is wrong in his relationship with God, then, broadly speaking, the whole world is wrong with God.

Throughout these two chapters Paul is trying to undermine the Jewish theology of that first century. A friend of mine once pointed out that the phrase "to the Jew first" (Rom. 1:16) smacked of favoritism, that is, it seemed like the Jews who became Christians were first-class Christians, while the Gentiles were second-class Christians. Unfortunately, this is precisely the way the Jews viewed themselves, as a privileged people who were therefore exempt, simply because they were Jews, from doing things others needed to do in order to be right with God. As we look at these passages, we are going to examine the reasons the Jews thought that they were privileged and therefore automatically exempt from God's wrath, and then look at Paul's response to their attitudes.


What were the Jews doing which led them to believe that they were right with God (Rom. 2:1)?


In verse one though Paul claims that they are without excuse for what reason?


Why does their judging others though make them "without excuse?"


    Many people have a warped sense of justice. They feel that even though they have done something wrong, they can feel better about themselves if they can judge others, tear others down, bring them down to their level so to speak. It may be that like some people who can only feel good about themselves if they are loaded with possessions or are flooded with fame, these others feel good about themselves only if they sit in judgment upon others. What is ironic is that in many cases the very sin they are the most critical about is the very sin they are most guilty of. Maybe they hope to mask their own guilt by continually criticizing others for it. It may be that this sin is so big in their lives that they can think of nothing else, even if it is negative. Or it may just simply may be that even though they commit this sin, they feel like they are OK as long as they condemn the sin even though they continue to commit it. Sin can really warp a person's thought process.

    According to James 4:11, whenever a Christian judges another Christian (brother), he is actually speaking out against what? ___________________. According to James, who is the only legitimate Lawgiver and Judge?


    Now go to 1 Cor. 4:4-5 Paul says that he not only rejects other people judging him but that he also refuses to judge himself. Why? According to Paul we should wait for what to occur before judgment sets in? Finally, according to Paul who should be the judge on that day?

    Simply because you have a clear conscience doesn't mean that you are innocent. The sign outside a local Baptist church once said that "a clear conscience many times is nothing more than the result of a bad memory."

In verse 2 Paul states a general statement regarding judgment. What is that principle?


According to verse 3 did the Jews think that this principle applied to them?


According to verse 4 what had God poured out upon the Jews?


    To understand more fully about the nature of God's riches upon the Jews, read Rom. 9:4-5 and then list the ways God had blessed the Jewish people.

Yet how did they respond to what God had done for them (2:3)?


According to verse 4, why had God poured out His riches upon the Jews?


The Jews thoroughly misunderstood what it meant to be God's people. They thought only in terms of privilege, that is, because they were God's people, because they had the Law, because they were Jews, they were not only better than everybody else, they were automatically saved and thereby exempt from having to do what others had to do in order to be right with God.

The truth is that although being God's people did bring privilege, it also brought responsibility, in fact, even greater responsiblity. Those who have been blessed by God have a greater responsibility to be faithful to Him than those who have not. Everybody is responsible to God; it's just that some are even more responsible.

A young man the other day at the college asked me (in a sneering sort of way) if I thought that everyone who didn't believe in Jesus was going to hell. I responded that I believe that everyone is responsible for the light which Christ has given them: the greater the light, the greater the responsibility. I assured him that many of us Christians are going to be held a whole lot more accountable for what we know than those who have never heard of Christ. He was quite stunned by that response, but it is a principle which Jesus Himself espoused. According to Jesus, who was going to be held more accountable: Sodom or Capernaum? Why? (Matt. 11:23-24).



How does this apply to you and me? We have been blessed with not only the 73 books of the entire Bible (unlike some living in other countries), we also have the Eucharist and Jesus Christ living within us, not to mention the Church itself and the other sacraments. As a result, we are going to be held to an even higher standard than those who do not have Christ living in them and these other blessings. Greater privilege means greater responsibility.


According to Paul (2:5) what kind of heart did the Jew possess?


What was happening to them right then because they had this kind of heart?


In verses 6-11 Paul states some principles which govern the way God will judge on Judgment Day. (In the next few lines, fill in the blanks.)

"who will render to ______________ man according to his ______________.
to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, _________________.
but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, ____________ and __________.
There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew _______ and also of the Greek,
but glory and honor and peace to _________ man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
For there is ____________ partiality with God."


At first, it looks like we are creating a religion of works. That's just not so. People unfortunately misunderstand the nature of grace. To be sure, it is God's unmerited favor; however, do not reduce grace to this. This is a grace which transforms a person. The person who is not transformed has probably never experienced God's grace. We all love to quote "For by grace you have been saved through faith"; however, we keep forgetting who wrote these words: "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). In his classic book The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that Paul penned those words, the very man who was beaten 3x with rods, stoned once, 3x shipwrecked, spent a night and a day in the deep, who hungered and thirsted, slept without shelter, etc. Bonhoeffer says that we have presented to the world "cheap grace," while all along it is costly grace which saves us. Grace because we did not merit it; however, costly because it transforms. Right after Paul wrote "For by grace you have been saved . . ." he writes, "For you have been created for good works" (Eph. 2:10).

How does all this work on Judgment Day? Is God going to be weighing everything you've done in a balance and see which way the scales tip? No. Your life though will demonstrate whether or not you've experienced the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. If there are genuine signs of transformation, you can rest assured that you are saved; if these are not present, you need to worry about your salvation. You just simply may not be saved because you never experienced God's transforming grace.


Go back through these verses and see how they apply specifically to the Jew. The Jew thought that he was automatically saved. How do these verses address that attitude? Where does it say in these verses that the Jews will not undergo judgment simply because they are Jews? In the same way, where in these verses does it say that Christians will escape judgment? (Before you base your belief regarding judgment on John 3:16-21, read these verses in the King James Version which does a better job of translating them than the newer Protestant translations do.)


In this entire passage (2:1-16) Paul is laying the foundation for verses 17-24 which state the things the Jews were doing which showed that they were not righteous but were in need of God's righteousness. In verses 12-16 Paul is undercutting the Jewish belief that simply having the Law was all that was needed. Keeping it did not matter in the eyes of many Jews; just having it was all that mattered. Paul is going right after this thought.



(12) For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. (13) For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. (14) For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these not having the Law, are a law to themselves, (15) in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (16) on the day when according to my gospel God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.


What will happen to those who have sinned apart from the Law?


What though will happen to those who have sinned under the Law, that is, they had the Law and knew what it said?


According to verse 13 what alone will not make you just before God?


The Jews believed that simply because they had the Law and heard it read to them in the synagogues that they were right before God. Paul is attacking this very thought in verse 13. As Catholics we need to take this seriously. We definitely believe that the mass, including the readings from Scripture, is sacramental. The mass including the readings is sacramental and not magic though. The readings are definitely operative; however, unless Christians are appropriating the readings by faith and the Eucharist by faith, the readings and the Eucharist are not positively benefitting the listener. If they were, they would be just sheer magic and not sacramental.


What according to verse 13 makes a person just before God?


What though will happen to those people who have never heard the Law? If they never heard the Law, then they had no chance to obey it. Right? Wrong. According to verses 14, 15 the Gentiles did have God's Law. How did they have access to God's Law?


According to this passage on what basis does God judge a person? As a cross reference, look up Rev. 20:11-15 and see what John says is the basis for judgment on that last day (see also 2 Cor. 5:10).


IMPORTANT FACTOID NUMBER 2: When we studied Rom. 1:18-20 we said that God revealed Himself through creation. In creation we see that there is a God who is all powerful and also loving. Now Paul informs us of a second way that God reveals Himself to you and me, through conscience. What should our conscience reveal to us about God?


Although Paul's focus is on salvation, he touches on several other issues in Romans. For example, here he is touching on revelation. Normally when we think of God's revelation, we think of His revelation through creation. Then we think of his revelation through conscience. Next, we think of revelation through the OT and then finally of His revelation through Christ. We treat them as different and separate ways of God revealing Himself. The truth though is that there is only one revelation of God. The revelation of God may come in different ways; however, there is only one revelation.

God's revelation is like an iceberg. Above the water we see the revelation of God through nature and through conscience. Everybody can see these two. Beneath the water though is the major chunk of the iceberg. Beneath this water (hidden to most people) is the revelation through the OT and through Christ. It takes the distributing of the Bible and the preaching of the Gospel for people to see these last 2. They are all part of the same iceberg (revelation); howver, it takes something special for people to see them.

Moreover, these 4 different ways of seeing God are consistent. Nature tells us there is a God and that He is unconditionally loving and powerful; well Jesus is not only God, He is unconditionally loving and powerful. Conscience informs us that God is righteous; well Jesus is righteousness itself.

Some have questioned why we need to preach the gospel if people can be saved simply by responding positively to God's revelation through nature and conscience. The reason is that although God does reveal Himself through these 2, most people's hearts are so hard that they still reject those 2 ways of revelation. Moreover, the NT does not say that the power for salvation (responding properly to God) is found in these 2 ways. In Rom. 1:16 Paul says that power is found in the gospel. If people's hearts are to be softened so that they can receive Christ, then we need to evangelize the world by sharing the gospel of God's grace.